Saturday, March 9, 2013

SNGF: Female Ancestors And Religion

Time for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun! From Randy over at GeneaMusings:

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission Impossible music, please!): 

1)  Read Lisa Alzo's blog post Back for a Fourth Year: Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women's History Month on her blogThe Accidental Genealogist.

2)  Choose one of her daily blog prompts from the list (this is March 9th, do that one if you don't want to choose another), and write about it.

3)  Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, in a Facebook post or a Google+ post.

I am going to skip ahead one day to the blogging prompt for March 10:

What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?
I suppose I'm attracted to this one because I just returned from Mass. Or, it could be that I've always enjoyed studying religion and would have been a religious studies major if I wasn't so practical. I just find it fascinating. I was raised Catholic, which is the religion of my father's paternal side. However, when I was about 12 years old, I started going regularly to a Baptist church with a friend. By the time I was 14 years old, I started going to a Methodist church with my paternal grandmother. I went to a Methodist college and was very involved in religious life on campus. Then I came full circle in my early twenties and became a confirmed Catholic. I ended up marrying a Catholic too. 

Since this is about female ancestors, I'll start with my mother. She was not raised in any particular Christian denomination. My parents married in the First Church of the Nazarene in Port Huron, Michigan, in 1977. Three of her sisters also married in this church in 1970, 1975, and 1978. When I asked her if that's where she went to church as a child, she said no. She said that it was the church of her paternal uncle, Frank Pemberton, but that he switched churches frequently. The only time she and her siblings went to church as a child was with Uncle Frank and they went to several different churches with him over the years. After my mom married my dad and they moved to Louisiana, she converted to Catholicism.

My paternal grandmother was raised in the Methodist church. Her maternal grandfather, William Harmon Proffitt, was a Methodist preacher in Oklahoma from c. 1900 until his death in 1944. During my grandmother's childhood, it was called the Methodist Episcopal Church. She was baptized at the age of two by her grandfather in 1937. Interestingly, she said her father always tended toward agnosticism, but I think he went to church to please her mother, at least in the early years of their marriage. When my grandma got married to a Catholic, she agreed to raise my dad and his brothers Catholic. She considered converting to Catholicism, but it was the 1950s, and the priest she talked to told her that she would have to be re-baptized. She refused because her grandfather had baptized her and that was special to her. She dabbled in the Methodist church after marriage, but pretty much more or less got out of the habit of practicing her faith until I was a teenager and told her that I was interested in going with her. We became very involved at Welsh Memorial United Methodist Church in Vinton, Louisiana, for several years from about 1995-2003. My grandma became very active in the United Methodist Women chapter at the church. I miss that church very much. Although I've embraced the Catholic faith, I will never forget my Methodist roots. In fact, if anyone out there reading this is in the Vinton area and looking for a non-Catholic church, I highly recommend this one. Anyhow, I digress. About six years ago, after I was confirmed Catholic, my grandma decided to convert as well. I'm sure her deceased mother-in-law, my great-grandma, was rolling over in her grave (she was never too happy that her son married a non-Catholic who refused to convert). 

My maternal grandmother, Violet Mae Currie, said that before her mother, Jennie Grace Christina (Plaine) Currie, died in 1937 (she was 7 years old when her mom died), the family attended a Presbyterian church on a regular basis. In my great-grandmother's obituary, it states that she was a member of the Presbyterian Church where A.G. Howat was minister, and her funeral services were held at Elk Presbyterian Church in Elk, Sanilac, Michigan, but I'm not 100% sure if they are the same two Presbyterian churches. They probably are, but I hate to assume. I need to do some more research on the Elk church and A.G. Howat. After her mother died, my grandma said she and her father went to Omard Methodist Church, but not on a regular basis. She married my grandfather, John Peter Pemberton, on 9 Sep 1949 at First Methodist Church in Port Huron, Michigan. However, as stated earlier, they did not raise their children Methodist (or any other particular denomination). Prior to the mid-to-late 1990s, I do not remember my maternal grandmother going to church regularly. She started going to the Methodist church with my paternal grandmother and me in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Those years are still very special to me because I felt so honored to attend church with both of my grandmothers every Sunday. She ended up being a member of the church until she died in 2008. She baked the bread for Communion, held the first Sunday of every month, in the years before her death.

As stated earlier, my paternal grandmother's mother-in-law, my great-grandmother, Beatrice Marie (Boneaux) Trahan, was a STAUNCH Catholic. Of all my great-grandparents, I probably knew her the best. She died when I was 12 years old. She went to Mass everyday and wore her head covering up until the time she died in 1993 (well past the rule changes of Vatican II in 1960s). She was an old fashioned Cajun French Catholic, very common in South Louisiana. She wanted so bad for my grandpa to become a priest. She even sent him to an all-boys seminary for his high school years. She was very disappointed when he married a non-Cajun Methodist girl from Oklahoma. My grandma and her mother (the daughter of the Methodist preacher) were very angry at my great-grandmother when my dad was born. My great-grandmother, Beatrice, wanted to have him baptized right away because he was premature and she was so concerned about his soul if he should die before being baptized. My grandma said her mother got so mad about it because it was upsetting my grandma at the thought that her firstborn child may die. I guess she was already concerned about it, and Beatrice was making it worse. Nevertheless, he did get baptized two days after birth by a priest at the hospital. I think Beatrice played an instrumental part in my mother's conversion to Catholicism. I guess she figured if she couldn't get the daughter-in-law to convert, why not get the granddaughter-in-law?

Like my mother, my maternal grandpa's mother, Mabel Ellen (Crysler) Pemberton Beedon, seemed to belong to no particular denomination. However, I'm not certain because I grew up in Louisiana, she lived in Michigan, and she died when I was only 8 years old. I only met her a handful of times. I need to ask more questions of my great-aunts and uncles who are still alive. The following is what I know from various marriage records and obituaries of Mabel and her children. Mabel married John "Jack" Vital Pemberton on 7 Aug 1927 in Port Huron, St. Clair, Michigan. They were married by F.W. Jewell, who according to city directories, was pastor at Pentecostal Convention Tabernacle at 1624 Stone St. in Port Huron. In 1932, the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Port Huron officiated at their son's funeral. Her two oldest children, my grandfather, John Peter Pemberton, and her daughter, Eva Mae Pemberton, were both married in 1949 and 1947, respectively, at First Methodist Church in Port Huron. In 1948, Mabel's daughter's funeral was held at the Free Methodist Church in Port Huron. Between 1958 and 1964, three more children, including Uncle Frank, were married by the minister at Free Methodist Church. In 1954, Mabel was married to her second husband, Daniel Robert Beedon, by J. Alton Cressman, the minister at First Presbyterian Church in Port Huron. Another daughter was also married by this pastor in 1969. Maybe it was a coincidence, but both Mabel's second husband and her daughter were divorced. Was the Presbyterian minister one of the few in town who would marry a divorced person? The pastor of Griswold Street Baptist Church in Port Huron officiated at her daughter Maggie's funeral in 1969. At her own funeral in 1989, the pastor of Bethesda Bible Church officiated.

Apparently, Mabel's mother-in-law, my great-great-grandma, Alvina Lesperance, was a Catholic of French Canadian descent. She and Lovell Hugh Pemberton married at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Anchorville, St. Clair, Michigan, on 10 Nov 1902. This may explain why my grandfather, according to his military records, went to St. Stephen's Catholic School in Port Huron. When I first saw this, I was baffled. I didn't know my mom's family had any Catholic roots. Then my grandma mentioned that Grandma Beedon (who was my grandma's mother-in-law) didn't like her mother-in-law (Alvina) and her mother-in-law didn't like her because she was not Catholic. Seems like a recurring theme here. So although my great-grandfather was married by a Pentecostal minister and did not raise my grandfather Catholic (other than sending him to a Catholic school), all of Alvina's other children married in one Catholic church or another and appear to have raised their children Catholic. 

So, that is all I know about the religion of my female ancestors. Now that I've written it down, it makes me want to dig deeper into some of the beliefs and church records of the various churches in Port Huron and surrounding areas where my ancestors had connections. I would also like to find out all the churches where my great-great-grandfather served as a Methodist Episcopal minister in Oklahoma. For others with Methodist ancestors, particularly ministers, here is a link to Researching Your United Methodist Ancestors.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jennifer,
    We have a similar family anecdote about my Catholic great-grandma insisting my uncle be baptized Catholic on the way to the doctor as a baby. She attended St. Peter's in Carencro. Wonder if he has the record? :)

    Thanks for the Methodist link. Several of my relatives were early Methodist preachers in AR, MO, TX, LA. Try Google books for preachers' names also, and the various "Christian Advocate" newspapers. I was lucky enough to have one whose bio was written by a Methodist historian & pub. by SMU Press, & his (mostly religious not genealogy-focused, but still cool to have) memoirs appeared mid 1800s in the "New Orleans Christian Advocate." :)